Erich Foretich, the apparent loser of the celebrated battle with his former wife, Elizabeth Morgan, for custody of their daughter, Hilary, faces suspension of his right to visit an older daughter by an earlier marriage as the outcome of a hearing this week in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
A judge who has been hearing a dispute involving Foretich and the mother of his older daughter indicated after a hearing Tuesday that a program of visits by Foretich with the older daughter in the presence of a psychologist is not working. The mother in the Fairfax case has custody of the daughter, who is 10.
Judge F. Bruce Bach indicated Tuesday that he wants an order drawn up suspending the visits, according to sources familiar with the case. One source speculated that the order would not end the dispute.
Although the matter came to court after the older child's mother alleged that the daughter was sexually abused by Foretich, Bach has ruled that abuse was not proved. Alleged abuse was not an issue at Tuesday's hearing, sources said.
Instead, sources said, the judge took the position that the girl's belief that she may have been abused created a situation in which it is not in her best interest to have the visits.
In juvenile cases, courts have the obligation to rule in favor of the best interests of the child.
In an unsealed part of the record of earlier hearings, the judge said there is "a lot of evidence" that the older child's mother had "coached the child."
Foretich could not be reached for comment last night.
Lawyers who represented him and the child at the hearing said they could not comment on the matter.
On Nov. 21, in a ruling that appeared to end at least temporarily a contest that has engendered lawsuits, court orders, the jailing of Elizabeth Morgan for contempt, an international search and worldwide media attention, a family court judge in New Zealand said 8-year-old Hilary Foretich could remain with her mother.
Hilary had been living since March in the New Zealand city of Christchurch with her mother.
In the custody battle over Hilary, Morgan accused Foretich of sexually abusing their daughter, an allegation he has denied and no court has upheld.
After Morgan took her allegations about Hilary to authorities in 1985, Foretich's previous wife went to Fairfax County officials with similar allegations, leading to Circuit Court hearings in 1987.
A 1989 Virginia Court of Appeals opinion affirmed a decision by Bach that the abuse of the older child was not proved.
But in the course of the dispute, the judge, citing his belief that the child believed she had been abused by Foretich and was extremely frightened of him, temporarily suspended visits until they were recommended by a court-appointed therapist.
Several visits were made this summer and fall, which "didn't go well," according to a lawyer for the older child's mother.